“I just moved in to my new house and the dishwasher isn’t working. What do I do?”

Man, oh man, I hate dishwashers. I had one that went on the fritz last year and it took seven repair visits, a complaint to the company I’d bought it from, and an appeal to the manufacturer before they figured out what was wrong and fixed it. And if there’s anything that’s likely not to work the day after you move into a new house, it will be one of the home appliances, whether it’s the dishwasher or the air conditioner.  Murphy’s Law.

So what can  you do? Well, the seller has an obligation to deliver the house over to you in the same condition it was in when you viewed it. I’m assuming that during your home inspection, everything was working fine.

If the listing didn’t say that all the appliances were “as is” and  you didn’t agree to that in your offer, home appliances that worked on the day of the home inspection should work on the day of closing. Make sure your home inspector checks. And check again when you do your final walk through.By the way, “closing” is not when you move in: it’s as soon as you get the keys.

If it’s only a couple of days after closing, and something breaks down, the seller may be willing to pay to get a repairman to look at the problem and fix it. After that,  it will depend on the age of the appliance, what’s wrong, how much it’s going to cost and their good faith. If they left you behind a three year old dishwasher, you’re not entitled to a new one just because the one you got stopped working. If they do contribute, it has to be reasonable.

And remember, by then, they’ve moved out. From their point of view, you may have misused it; it was working fine when they were there; they don’t owe you anything. And besides, we all know that home appliances are notoriously fickle — one day the fridge is fine; the next day the ice cream is melting.

So the very first thing you should do as soon as you get the keys, even if you are not moving in right away, is go over to your new home and check the appliances. Run a load of laundry, put a cycle through he dishwasher, turn on the fridge if it’s been turned off, check the stove, etc. If something isn’t working, call your realtor immediately. Or your lawyer.

Sometimes household appliances are under warranty, and the prior owner will have  left you proof of payment; those are easy fixes. (I always put a clause in the offer requiring them to leave manuals and warranty information, if any, behind.) If the appliances are new enough, even if they aren’t under warranty, you can  sometimes get the manufacturer to step up to the plate as I did with my dishwasher – Bosch stood by its product even though its warranty  had ended. (They were great.)

Your realtor will contact the seller’s agent, or your lawyer will contact the other lawyer, explain the problem,  and see what can be worked out. Most times, it’s not going to be worthwhile taking action in small claims court, so this is the kind of stuff that should be settled as fairly as possible. If the seller refuses to do anything, you may be on your own.

But the best solution, obviously, is to do as much due diligence as you can ahead of time. Ask for copies of receipts and warranty information before closing: sometimes (for example, with air conditioners), the warranties even on brand new equipment aren’t transferable or only apply if you agree to take on maintenance plans with the company that installed the equipment and pay a fee. Ask lots of questions before you make the offer so you know what the situation will be if you run into hiccups.

And finally,  make sure your home inspector records the make and model number of the appliances so that the ones you get on closing are the same ones you saw. I haven’t run into it myself but I have heard of situations where the sellers swapped out the appliances before closing because they wanted them for their new home. Make sure you get what you paid for.




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